If you’ve been working in Australian SEO circles long enough (say two years), you’ll surely remember how garnering backlinks with the ‘do follow’ tag was the holy grail. These links were precious because they passed along some of the site’s page rank (PR) to your own, boosted your own PR and thus your standing in the SERPs
In those heady days, webmaster boards were full of news about how such and such a forum or web 2 property had become ‘no follow’ and was now useless for backlinking.
Nowadays the whole question of ‘follow’ tags is becoming controversial again but for a different reason. Today’s SEOs are concerned about making links ‘no follow’. That’s because ‘do follow’ can mark a link as ‘unnatural’. In its successive algorithm updates, Google have made their policy very clear – organic backlinks are not built, they grow. In Google’s eyes, any action that builds links with the intention of improving rankings is against its policies and subject to penalty.
In Google’s system, links pass on value to the sites they link. The no follow tag (technically an attribute, not a tag) was conceived by Google all the way back in 2005 as a weapon against comment spam. The rel=”no follow” attribute is one of several ‘rel’ attributes a link can have. “Rel” stands for “relationship” which means these attributes help clarify the relationship between the link and the page it links to.
So what’s your takeaway from this as an Australian SEO professional?
You should apply the no follow attribute any time you don’t want to be seen as crediting the site being linked to. Some possible examples are if you allow commenting or posting on your blog without authorisation, or if you’re running adverts which link out on your site.
Ask yourself whether all the links to your clients’ sites are really natural. Would those links be there if you hadn’t caused them to be there? If so, you have nothing to worry about.
So what about guest blogging, one of today’s preferred methods of traffic generation? Google’s John Mueller recently advised that links from blog posts be made ‘no follow’, otherwise the post might be regarded as being made purely to gain a backlink.
This shouldn’t affect proper guest blogging too much as linkbuilding was never the main intention. Guest blogging was meant to broadcast your expertise to high traffic related sites and lure visitors back to your site through the sheer power of your content. Links were merely a bonus.
But as usual, people started to game the system with mass submissions of low quality posts aimed at simply garnering backlinks. Hopefully increased use of the ‘no follow’ attribute will help reduce that practice.